Could someone like Mike Stidham, who has never had a horse in the Kentucky Derby, end up with the post-time favorite May 7 if Bob Baffert still is not allowed to train at Churchill Downs?
Against the specter of a lawsuit, management for the track said Monday it would not budge from its two-year ban of Baffert. That declaration only will continue to fuel questions about how and when owners might move their horses to other trainers to get a shot at the 2022 Derby.
For the record, Baffert is not saying. Owners are not saying. Rival trainers dare not say.
Asked Monday whether he had been contacted about taking on futures favorite Corniche, Stidham told Horse Racing Nation, “Not at this point.”
Past relationships suggest Stidham could get the call. They offer a prism to see who else might take care of Baffert’s 3-year-olds before the win-and-you’re-in prep races that run from mid-February to early April.
Owners of the 17 Baffert horses listed by Las Vegas bookmakers in their Kentucky Derby futures indeed have used other trainers. Equibase records say so. In fact, they say this:
Corniche. The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner and current futures favorite is owned by Peter Fluor, Ann Fluor and K.C. Weiner. Their Speedway Stable has a track record with Stidham, who trained Grade 1 winners Roadster as well as Noted and Quoted after they were shipped east from the Baffert barn in California. Stidham also trained Canadian champion filly Leigh Court after she had been bought by Speedway.
Messier, Doppelgänger, Wharton. The first one is a Grade 3 winner. The other two broke their maidens in their debuts last month. All three are owned by a partnership led in name by Ben Goldberg’s Golconda Stable. Only one of the group’s six horses has been trained by anyone but Baffert. That is Dubrovnik, a maiden 3-year-old colt whom Jonathan Thomas looks after in Florida. The trio has raced in the colors of Sol Kumin’s Madaket Stables, who employed Graham Motion last year and Michael McCarthy in 2018 to handle their wholly owned graded-stakes winners.
Newgrange, Pinehurst, Rockefeller, Murray, McLaren Vale, Montebello, Barossa, Rhetoric. Since the Golconda-Madaket partnership also owns these horses, apply everything from the previous paragraph here. Throw this in. Barbara Banke’s Stonestreet Stables are also partners with these seven Baffert colts. Stonestreet on its own has been loyal to Steve Asmussen, who trained its Horses of the Year Curlin and Rachel Alexandra and most recently has handled Clairière.
Flying Drummer. Owner Michael Lund Petersen, who made his name in Denmark as an early investor in Pandora Jewelry, is fiercely loyal to Baffert. That means it is not easy to guess where recent maiden breaker Flying Drummer might land if he were to be moved. The rare examples of Petersen’s other trainers are John Terranova and Tim Martin, both of whom took on low-level racers after they were moved east from Baffert. Flying Drummer, an $850,000 Gun Runner colt, broke his maiden Dec. 31 on his fourth try.
Winning Map. Merneith is the only graded-stakes winner whom Prince Sultan of Saudi Arabia owns in North America, and he is trained by Baffert. If Winning Map has to be transferred, he might land with another Hall of Famer. Mark Casse has trained His Highness’s allowance winners such as Mo of the West, Lynn’s Map and Lili’s Song, all based in the east. Winning Map, a $525,000 Liam’s Map colt, won his debut and finished third in the Bob Hope Stakes (G3) on Nov. 14 at Del Mar.
Gold Rush Candy. Dianne Bashor is a San Diego philanthropist who has owned only two other racehorses since 2000, according to Equibase. Both were trained by Baffert, so plan B would be a complete guessing game. The same might be said about what is next for this Danzing Candy colt, who broke his maiden in August and has not been on the track since.
Enbarr, Kamui. Four Grade 1 winners led by 2016 male sprint champion Drefong have been trained by Baffert for Baoma Corporation, which owns these two colts who broke their maidens in September at Los Alamitos. It is rare that Charles and Susan Chu use another trainer. They called on Eddie Plesa to train their homebred gelding Wind Ninety Nine, a 4-year-old who has raced twice and won once in maiden-claiming races in Florida.